We arrived in Huthwaite soon after, bringing with us all the treasures we were prepared to sell. I was not sure why, but the refugee caravan was forced to wait outside of the city walls as a representative came out to meet with them. They were told that they could not enter the city. At least, not yet.
Since Daniel, Edithe, and I were adventurers, we did not have those constraints placed on us. We entered without a hitch, finding a place to stay within the city, before heading to the markets to sell the loot we did not need to keep. I had my brand new greaves on. I wore it with pride as we marched through the bustling city.
It was not like a full, proper city. It was still rather small— probably since it was in the border. I was not sure how that affected its size, but that was what Edithe told me. The architecture here was different from the Sunmere Republic and from Nixa. While those cities were generally large— especially Viechester— they were also well-organized. The buildings were quite uniform, and when seen from far away, they looked no different from the wrinklings of a neat, gravel path.
Meanwhile, this city was a mess. It was like the desolate landscape of the Netherworld. Not in terms of its expansive size or the emptiness of it all. It just reminded me of when I would investigate the rocks on the ground. They were haphazardly strewn about, many of them coming in different shapes and sizes, some were even impeding on each other.
The roads were uneven, the structure of the street irregular, and it was pretty much impossible for me to navigate my way around this city without getting lost.
Luckily, Daniel and Edithe stopped me from wandering around away from them. I saw something sparkly— but they yanked me back by my jacket.
I pouted, but did not protest. If I ended up losing my way and was forced to use my horn, I was pretty sure everyone in the city would come after me. And it would not be for the same reason Daniel and Edithe would.
It took the better part of the afternoon for us to sell off most of our unneeded equipment. We had to find different vendors, [Traders], and [Merchants] willing to buy used adventurer goods. The local Adventurers Guild had an offer which apparently had them acting as the middleman for the Forsaken Company.
That was the last place we dropped by to relieve ourselves of the last of our useless baggage, before we found an inn for my companions to sleep in. Night came and went as it normally did. When the sun finally rose and the day returned, we packed whatever valuables we had left with us— as well as our newly acquired items— and set off back for the Plaguelands. Our escort mission was over. All that was left for us was to get back to what we were doing.
Daniel was ecstatic. Not over our return trip. His eyes were bulging out of his sockets as he stared down at a bag full of coins. It was everything we earned yesterday.
“Be careful showing that around, Daniel. What if someone sees it and tries to rob us?”
Edithe frowned at him as we paid the [Innkeeper] and started for the doorway. He snorted.
“As if anyone would try to rob Platinum Ranks like us. This is barely worth anything to those who can actually beat us in a fight.”
“Is someone trying to attack us?”
I perked up. The pair ignored me. Deflating, I trailed behind them until we reached the inn’s door. We pushed it open, letting the light of day pour in and for us to get out— only to stop as a group of armed men stood before us.
A Human woman dressed in decorated plate armor stepped forward.
“Are you the adventurers Edithe, Daniel, and Salvos?”
“Uh, what’s this about—”
“Yep! That’s us!”
I spoke over Daniel before he could give a proper response. The woman furrowed her brow, before pulling out a sheet of paper.
“Right. Well, we have a warrant for your arrest. You’ll be coming with us.”
The guards behind her drew their weapons as Daniel stepped back.
“Wait— what did we do…?”
“What did you think happened?”
Edithe sighed. My companions turned to stare at me as I cocked my head.
“What? I didn’t do anything!”
The guard captain shook her head, reading off the parchment.
“According to this piece of report I have, it seems that while crossing an outpost to enter our country, you three assaulted a guard on duty before fleeing with a Cyclops who had not yet paid the border tax.”
I blinked as she finished.
“Does that sound familiar to you?”
“Oh, um… sorry?”
When you did something bad, you had to apologize, right? That was enough to resolve it, right?
Daniel was depressed. He stared down at the pouch in his hand. It was not as thick as before. Not as full as before. It did not seem like it weighed even half as much as before.
“How… it’s all gone…”
I walked happily in front of him, glad that things worked out. I was afraid we would have to end up fighting the Humans there. Luckily, Humans were not wild. They could resolve things peacefully!
They brought us to a dull building before showing us a number, which made Daniel collapse to the ground and cry for a moment. But after he collected himself, we pried the coin pouch off him and paid off the fine. After that was finished, we just had to sign a few paperwork, as well as receive an official document from that lady, before we were free to go.
Edithe patted Daniel on the back, speaking in a soft voice.
“We still have enough leftover for most necessities. And it’s not like we won’t earn most of it back, anyway.”
“I know… but it’s just that… I thought we’d be financially secure for at least a day...”
He sobbed. I glanced back at him, shrugging.
“But we did have that gold for a day, didn’t we? So, you were right!”
Daniel ignored me. I exchanged a glance with Edithe, and she just gave me a helpless look. There was nothing either of us could do about him. Sometimes, he was whiney. We just had to bear with it.
And we did as the sun crept across the sky, trailing towards the horizon. Because of that brief encounter, we only managed to leave Huthwaite when it was already getting late. If we continued at our pace, we would not reach the Plaguelands anytime soon.
I paused mid-step, and the upset Human man almost ran into me.
I spun around, exclaiming as I pointed a finger at him. He blinked. Edithe frowned.
“What is it, Salvos?”
Grinning, I clinked the metallic greaves on my shin together.
“We just got a bunch of new items yesterday. Why don’t we test it out now?”
“There… isn’t anything here for us to test on?”
Edithe grew more uncertain as the words came out of her mouth. I waved a hand off dismissively.
“Sure, there is! Here!”
I beckoned her forward. She stepped approached me, casting her gaze around warily. Daniel was more sluggish. His speed was impeded by his dour mood. I beamed.
“You two— you’re my test dummies!”
Before they could even register my words, I picked them both up. I scooped Daniel off his legs, while grabbing Edithe and slinging her over my shoulder.
“What the fu—”
“[Self Haste]. [Flame Burst]. And…”
I focused on my legs. Magic flared up, activating the enchantments there.
“Greaves of the Wanderer!”
I took off down the road, carrying both of my companions as I sped as fast as I could. I kicked up a cloud of dust behind me as I ran— my pace even quicker than I had previously been outside of my Mortal Form. It took us almost a week to reach Huthwaite from the ruins of Ghostlight.
I was going to ensure we reached it before the day even ended. I did not have much time, with how late it was. Yet, I believed in myself. I challenged myself and pushed my limits. As I did, my companions screamed, cheering me on. They were excited, obviously. Why else would they be screaming?
Daniel was not lying. He left a trail of gross liquid behind on the road behind us, for any poor passersby to see. I eventually came to a stop as I saw the smoking town of Ghostlight in the distance, placing my companions down slowly to regain their balance.
The Human man doubled over and threw once again. I smirked, wanting to laugh at him again for experiencing what it was like for me to eat food, but Edithe fixed me with a glare.
“Do not do that again.”
I shrunk back.
I quickly recovered— and so did Daniel. I skipped the rest of the way, excited that my companions and I could resume our training.
“Shouldn’t we set up camp first, and start tomorrow?”
“It’ll be really quick! And it’s not like we have any place closeby to stay. We can just take a quick look around— maybe find a good place for you two weird Humans to sleep!”
Edithe raised a brow.
“But isn’t that dangerous, Salvos? We decided the Plaguelands was not a safe place.”
“Nope! At least, it shouldn’t be anymore. Not around its edges. I’m Level 82, you’re Level 72, and Daniel is—”
I glanced over at him. He shook his head as Edithe stared at me, confused.
“He’s Level 81, of course. Yep, definitely Level 81!”
The Human man sighed in relief, however I decided to talk to him about it in private eventually. He could not just keep hiding his secret from Edithe. She deserved to know.
“The Skeletons around this area are around Level 90 to 95. Maybe high 90s at most! As long as we do not stray too far into the Plaguelands, the most dangerous thing we’ll run into are [Skeleton Warriors].”
“You say that is if they aren’t dangerous…”
I spoke emphatically, meeting her gaze. The blight around us grew thicker as we trudged through the landscape that seemed to decay with every step we took. Daniel did not voice too many complaints; it was Edithe’s turn to be whining now!
“Look. Do you see that?”
We caught sight of a few lumbering figures. [Unarmed Skeletons]. Only about three of them. They came charging at us the moment we got too close. Edithe tensed, preparing the spells she had at the ready.
“Just support us.”
I nodded at her, turning to Daniel. The Human man drew his sword without a word. His bracers did not light up with magic— they offered him a passive boost, not anything active like my Greaves of the Wanderer.
The two of us rushed forward as Edithe stood back. She sent a spell ahead of us first, as we got closer.
“[Storm of Ice and Fire].”
A circle— about ten foot in diameter— caught the Skeletons beneath their feet. Fire burst up at them as ice hailed down from the sky. It slowed their movements. It caught them in its fury, whittling away at their defenses.
The spell dissipated, and I was the first to reach the Skeleton. I did not even transform out of my Mortal Form. I created a pair of fiery blades, assailing the first [Unarmed Skeleton] with a [Barrage of Cinders]. The combination of blows caused it to stumble back. It could not even land a single punch on me.
The second [Unarmed Skeleton] rushed after me as Daniel met with the third. I leapt back, engaging the new enemy as I shouted back.
A furious blast of lightning struck out. It was not a charged ball of energy like before. Now, it was a concentrated sphere of electricity, followed by a streak of lightning that spread out, almost like it was tracking its target.
The Skill landed right at the first [Unarmed Skeleton]. It blew apart its head, turning it to a pile of bones with just that. Edithe’s own eyes grew wide as she saw the power of the spell. That her new Skills were actually hurting them.
Sure, I weakened the Skeleton first. And she had used another Skill just before that. But that took far less time than it did when we first arrived. Daniel disposed of his opponent easily enough, leaving only me in battle.
I took a step back, inhaling deeply.
The cone of blazing, blue flames engulfed the last Skeleton, incinerating its bones until it was ashes. The gray dust was blown away by the wind as I turned back, a wide smile spread across my face as Edithe stared at me with a dumbfounded expression.
“See? Not dangerous at all! At least, not until we go further into the Plaguelands.”
And I really wanted to do just that.